What is a Tumor Board, and When is it Used?
Doug Mirsky

Cancer treatment has changed significantly over the past few decades, and oncologists and oncology providers need to keep up with these changes. With new diagnostic and treatment options emerging at an accelerating rate, many oncologists find it invaluable to discuss these new approaches in a multi-disciplinary setting.

Tumor boards have become powerful tools in cancer treatment today. A tumor board is a meeting where a multi-disciplinary oncology team has the opportunity to discuss complex patient cases. Together, the care team reaches a consensus about the best care plan for the patient.

As with numerous aspects of patient care shifting to the online world, tumor board meetings are frequently digital and support remote attendance, making it easier to confer with multidisciplinary experts from a broad region. Some members of the care team request asynchronous participation to deal with busy schedules and multiple time zones.  In many ways, tumor boards are changing the way cancer care is delivered, opening the door to new opportunities for patients.

We will take a closer look at the tumor board, how it can improve the care patients receive, and how oncologists can take advantage of a community of peers to enhance the level of care they deliver to their patients.

What is a tumor board?

A tumor board represents a multidisciplinary group of oncologists and other specialists who come together to discuss treatment options for individual cancer patients. Some of the types of physicians attending a tumor board are listed below:

A tumor board is frequently a hybrid between a physical conference and a virtual meeting.  Teams can conduct virtual tumor boards with video conferencing software or asynchronous messaging software so that various contributors can leave their feedback regarding the final treatment decision for the patient.

What cases go to a tumor board?

Evidence-based recommendations, such as the NCCN guidelines, were created to guide physicians toward optimal treatment approaches. The established guidelines readily address most common cancers.  Consequently, oncologists typically reserve tumor boards for more challenging or unusual cases. Some topics that may be presented at a tumor board are listed below:

How often do tumor boards meet?

The frequency with which tumor boards meet can vary significantly, from weekly to monthly. Occasionally, the tumor board needs the participation of other specialties, so a special highly attended tumor board might meet quarterly to discuss particularly challenging or rare cases. The exact schedule is up to the hospital and the physicians involved.

A tumor board will review several topics for a typical cancer case. They include the current standard of care, the possibility of radiation, different chemotherapy agents, and the possibility of surgery either before or after other treatment options. The tumor board meeting will also assess the suitability of clinical trials, palliative care options, and supplements that could improve the patient’s overall quality of life. The goal of a tumor board meeting is to develop the optimum treatment plan for the patient.

The power of a physician community

A tumor board is a powerful tool because it gives oncologists the ability to confer with and learn from other doctors, many of whom may work in different specialties. An effective tumor board can improve the level of patient care.

Oncologists can take advantage of opportunities to connect with physicians and receive guidance on their complex cases. We recognize that sometimes even the experts need experts, and oncologists rely on one another to ensure they consider the best options for their patients. Another way to connect with peers outside of tumor boards is to join the Primum community.

Oncologists can use Primum to hold 1:1 conversations with other oncologists about complex cases. Alternatively, one can consult 1:1 with several specialists, which is similar to a small asynchronous tumor board. Leveraging Primum, an oncologist can collaborate with a broad network of physicians to solicit numerous perspectives, which might help provide better care to their patients.


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Doug Mirsky

Doug is Primum's Head of Network Development & Partnerships. Prior to Primum, he was an early employee with Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) spending 15+ years establishing expertise matching networks in healthcare and analytics.